I said I was going to do this, and I am going to do it. Or am I just being stubborn? I don't know. I just don't know." Don't get stuck in this trap. It is just another hindrance. Another of the mind's little smoke screens to keep you from actually becoming aware of what is happening. To handle doubt, simply become aware of this mental state of wavering as an object of inspection. Don't be trapped in it. Back out of it and look at it. See how strong it is. See when it comes and how long it lasts. Then watch it fade away, and go back to the breathing. Soul care through faith is not simply a program to follow--it's a new way of life. It has the effect of transforming you from the inside out, shining a light on the old things that no longer serve you, and pointing to new ways of being that will. When faith works hand in hand with everything else you've learned in this book, the result can be breathtaking. Seek assistance and support from others. If you've got persistent questions about the value and practice of faith, rest assured you're not the first one to ask them. Find someone you trust who can help you explore this topic. Others have walked the road ahead of you and can share what they've learned along the way. Read the Bible and other sacred texts.

The history of humanity is one long search for meaning and connection to our origins and true nature. Fortunately, there is a written record of the quest. Poets and mystics of all kinds have littered the road with breadcrumbs leading us back to ourselves--and to a loving, nurturing, healing God. Guard your thoughts. Old ways of thinking and believing often put up a fierce fight when challenged by something new. You are not a mere bystander witnessing the battle, however. It's within your power to choose which thoughts and ideas you feed and which you starve. Each of us has a steady flow of words and messages continually filling our minds. This self-talk can be a strong influence on our feelings, choices, and perspectives--positive or negative. Nurture the helpful, healing thoughts while banishing the ones that bring you down and cause you to doubt. Regularly pause to say thank you. As I said earlier, gratitude is a key component in the healing of depression. Yet many people overlook the blessings in their lives or can't embrace the good when they feel so bad. Make a choice each day to be grateful. Keep a gratitude journal. Before sleep, review the gifts that came your way. On a walk with a friend, mention some things you're grateful for. Pray with a particular focus on thankfulness. The idea that exercise can alleviate and even prevent depression is not a new one. Neither is the idea that, in some cases, exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in stabilizing or improving moods.

In one study, 156 adults with major depressive disorder were randomized into three groups. The first group participated in aerobic exercise sessions three times a week; the second group was given an antidepressant; and the third group participated in a combination of exercise and medication. After four months, the group that participated in exercise alone benefited as much as the other two groups. It's especially interesting that participants in the exercise-only group were also less likely to relapse into depression, and those who exercised regularly during a ten-month follow-up period were less likely (by more than 50 percent) than non-exercisers to be depressed. The study is one of many with similar findings. In fact, professors from the University of Toronto analyzed twenty-six years of research on the link between depression and exercise. Their conclusion, based on their review of more than twenty-five different research articles, was that even low levels of physical activity for twenty to thirty minutes a day could reduce or prevent depression in people of all ages. "This review shows promising evidence that the impact of being active goes far beyond the physical," explained George Mammen, coauthor of the review. "If you're currently active, you should sustain it. If you're not physically active, you should initiate the habit." The fact is, however, volumes of research indicate that we would make more accurate decisions if we relied on statistical predictions instead of intuitive predictions. With statistical prediction, we don't use our subjective judgment to assess and combine different bits of information. Instead, we combine the information statistically or mathematically. In the college admissions case, for example, we can just add up a student's grade point average, SAT score, and numerical evaluations of recommendation letters, and then use that sum to predict a student's future success in college. Decades of research have demonstrated that such simple statistical models do a better job than intuitive judgments in many decision contexts. In fact, statistical prediction has been shown to be better than intuitive prediction in over one hundred studies. These include predicting the success of students in college, the suicide attempts of psychiatric patients, the job satisfaction of engineers, the growth of corporations, when a parolee will violate their parole, whether patients are neurotic or psychotic, the amount of psychiatric hospitalization required, and a patient's response to electroshock therapy. And, in most all of these cases, experts are providing the intuitive predictions. For example, one study investigated the accuracy of the graduate admissions committee at the University of Oregon. The committee used their professional judgment to predict the future success of students, given information like undergraduate grade point average (GPA), Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, and assessments of the quality of the undergraduate institution.

The judgments of the admissions committee were then correlated with student performance in school after a two- to five-year period (based on faculty ratings at that time). It turned out that they correlated only 0.19, a very poor accuracy rate. In contrast, just adding up student scores on the relevant variables (e.g., GPA, GRE scores, etc.) yielded a correlation of 0.48. We would be more accurate if we just relied on basic statistical data combined in a very simple way, as opposed to relying on the intuitive assessments of the professionals. What about the decision to grant a criminal parole? Parole boards rely heavily on interviews with criminals. One study found that out of 629 criminals who were granted parole, all but one of the decisions were consistent with the recommendation of the interviewer. But was the interviewer's intuitive judgment any good? The parole board thought that about 25 percent of their decisions were failures within one year of release because the parolee committed another crime or violated parole. A model that used only background statistics, like the type of crime originally committed, the number of past crimes, and the number of prison rules violated, was much more accurate than an interviewer in predicting these failures. This is the general pattern you will use on any distraction that arises. By distraction, remember we mean any mental state that arises to impede your meditation. Some of these are quite subtle. It is useful to list some of the possibilities. The negative states are pretty easy to spot: insecurity, fear, anger, depression, irritation, and frustration. Craving and desire are a bit more difficult to spot because they can apply to things we normally regard as virtuous or noble. You can experience the desire to perfect yourself. You can feel craving for greater virtue. You can even develop an attachment to the bliss of the meditation experience itself. It is a bit hard to detach yourself from such noble feelings.

In the end, though, it is just more greed. It is a desire for gratification and a clever way of ignoring the present-moment reality. Trickiest of all, however, are those really positive mental states that come creeping into your meditation. Happiness, peace, inner contentment, sympathy, and compassion for all beings everywhere. These mental states are so sweet and so benevolent that you can scarcely bear to pry yourself loose from them. It makes you feel like a traitor to humanity. There is no need to feel this way. We are not advising you to reject these states of mind or to become heartless robots. We merely want you to see them for what they are. They are mental states. They come, and they go. They arise, and they pass away. As you continue your meditation, these states will arise more often. The trick is not to become attached to them. Just see each one as it comes up. See what it is, how strong it is, and how long it lasts. Then watch it drift away. It is all just more of the passing show of your own mental universe. Just as breathing comes in stages, so do the mental states. Every breath has a beginning, a middle, and an end.